Denpasar: Bali’s only municipality

by Nick on April 30, 2007

by Nick | April 30th, 2007  

Denpasar means ‘by the market’ and is Bali’s only real city. Denpasar is home to Balinese people from all over the island who work in Kuta, so in the late afternoon the roads leading to Denpasar are choked with traffic. For a Javanese person Denpasar is home from home. I’ve been told that there is a real community feeling there and people look after each other. Around 500,000 people live in Denpasar, including Balinese, Javanese and others from around the country. Denpasar is ‘local friendly’ in that rent, food and almost anything else is cheap and you will find food vendors from many parts of Indonesia. Denpasar is not particularly ‘tourist friendly’, traffic system and the lack of obvious tourist facilities mean its is often overlooked by visitors.

My guidebook says “Bali’s capital has been the focus of a lot of the island’s growth and wealth over the last 4 decades, and now has much of the hustle and congestion of many of the fast growing cities in Asia, without any of the first world infrastructure. There are still tree- lined streets and some pleasant gardens, but the traffic, noise and pollution, can make it difficult to enjoy. A limited range of accommodation is available, so naturally most visitors ind it convenient to stay in Kuta, Legian, Sanur or Ubud, and visit Denpasar as a day trip. Denpasar might not be a tropical paradise, bit its as much a part of ‘the real Bali’ as the rice paddies and cliff-top temples, and its not touristy – you can still catch a dokar (pony cart) to get around in some parts of Denpasar.”

How to get to Denpasar:

There are a couple of ways to get to Denpasar from people staying in Kuta. If you are going to Renon to visit a consulate, you would take the Bypass to Sanur, and turn off at Jl. Raya Puputan. If you want to a selection of Denpasar’s food, you would follow Jl. Imam Bonjol through to Jl. Tueku Umar. From Seminyak you might follow Jl. Raya Kerobokan around to Jl. Gatut Subroto, the busy street that crosses Denpasar in the north. Many other routes are also possible. Once inside Denpasar proper, you will have to be on your toes as the one-way traffic system can send you in directions not anticipated. Denpasar is quite large so take a map with you.

Attractions in Denpasar:

Pasar Badung market
Pasar Badung has 4 floors in a giant concrete structure that is rather like a parking structure. Different floors carry different goods, starting with the fruit and veg market outside.

Pasar Badung
Where it is: Its in Denpasar of off Jl. Gajah Mada
When it is open: Open all the time, but different activities happen depending on the time.
Best time to visit: A day its not raining, between 8am-12 noon. Plenty of snack food vendors.
How much does it cost to get in: Free. 500rp for motorbike.
What’s there for a westerner: You might find a sarong or t-shirt on the 3rd floor for a gift. Great photo opportunities.
Distance from Kuta: Taking Jl. Iman Bonjol it takes maybe 15-20 minutes to get there, depending on traffic.

Bali Museum
The Bali Museum is located at Puputan Square in Denpasar. Set in traditional looking grounds, adjacent to Pura Jagatnata, a visit to the museum is a relaxing and affordable place, where you can learn about Balinese history. Split into 4 main buildings, the museum is stocked with artifacts dating back to the megalithic period. The museum dates back to 1910, when the Dutch started building it. The structure was in the puri-pura style, meaning like a palace-temple, complete with courtyards, pavilions and decorated temple gateways. Walter Spies played a part in the Bali Museum, helping put together the collection and organize the display.

Bali Museum Denpasar

What is it?
A museum detailing the history of Balinese culture from megalithic times to the present.

Admission:
3,000rp for adults, 1,000rp for kids, plus 1,000rp insurance for adults, 500rp

Getting there from Kuta:
Your best bet is to take a taxi, as Denpasar is hard to navigate. If you want to drive / ride yourself, take Jl. Imam Bonjol towards Denpasar, take Jl. Teuku Umar , going straight through the roundabout. When the road forks after a kilometer or so, go right and follow signs for Bali Museum. When you come to Puputan Square, the big grassy area to your right, circle around it and park in front of the large Balinese temple. The museum entrance is next door. Travelling time from Kuta is 20 minutes.

When is it open?
Bali Museum is open from 8am-3pm Mon-Thurs & Sun, 8am-12.30pm Fri, Sat closed.

How long does it take to tour the museum?
You can do it in an hour, but if you want to check out all the exhibits and read all the descriptions, it will take 2 hours.

Facilities:
Toilet, drinks shop, gift shop.

Do you need a guide?
There are individuals hanging around offering their services as a guide. You’ll have to negotiate for a price. In my opinion, as long as you can read, you’ll be fine.

Best time to go?
Mornings and early afternoons, as the staff have been known to close early, then try to charge you a fee for the ’special service’ of opening the museum just for you.

Tips for visitors:
Eat something before you go, as there is no restaurant on site, or any food places in the area.

Events in Denpasar:

Bali Arts Festival – Taman Budaya Cultural Center
The Bali Arts Festival is an annual celebration of Balinese art and cultural traditions. The event last a month from mid-June- mid-July. Check your local Bali events calendar for the schedule. Performance events are in the morning and late afternoon / evenings, so if you go in the middle of the day there may not be dances on.

The Bali Arts Festival is presented at the Taman Budaya Cultural Center, located on Jl. Nusa Indah in the same area as the Kereneng bemo station.

Resources in Denpasar:

Citibank
Citibank has one branch in Bali, located on Jl. Tueku Umar. This modern bank is based in the US and can handle large sums of money. Here is a selection of their charges.

Citibank Bali
Graha Mahkota
Jl. Teuku Umar 208–210
Denpasar 80113

Historical events in Denpasar:
Puputan
Balinese history has been largely influenced by outsiders. One group of outsiders, who have a history of violence and destruction, wherever they went were the Europeans. One of the bloodiest events in Balinese history occurred in Denpasar on September 20th, 1906, when the raja of Badung (the southern regency in Bali), Gusti Gede Ngurah came to the conclusion, that his court could no longer suffer under Dutch rule and ordered a mass suicide, the ritual puputan.

Ramayana Shopping Mall:
Ramayana Shopping mall is a place most westerners don’t visit. But a trip to Denpasar might take you past this past. If you head north on Jl. Tueku Umar and keep going, taking the compulsory left turn, onto Jl. Diponegoro, you will see the large orange-brick Ramayana Mall on the right hand side.

Walking Tour of Denpasar:
Denpasar offers a different type of scene to that found in the Kuta area. Not a tourist center, or even a party center, Denpasar is home to locals, Balinese from other parts of the island, who work in Kuta, and other Indonesians who have moved here. It offers cheap accommodation, street food, cheap locally made goods and a nightmare traffic system. There are some highlights and my LP guide book points out a route that can be done on foot.

Denpasar bemo stops:
Tourists visiting are on a short time frame and use a variety of transport modes to get them around as quickly as possible including taxis, rented cars and motorbikes. One transport option most people don’t think of are bemos. Bemos are are the small mini vans that drive all over Bali ferrying locals from place to place at an affordable price. Denpasar has some big bemo terminals and understanding where the buses route to and from is important.

Nightmarkets:
Denpasar has some great local markets, some which are open at night. Pasar Badung is open at night in part, and other markets which are known as ‘night markets’ are Kereneng Night Market, located off of Jl. Hayam Wuruk. Great pace for a local night time snack. There is also a night market on Jl. Diponegoro, just north of the Ramayana mall.

Sanglah Hospital:
Sanglah hospital is the best hospital in Bali. If you get in a serious accident you’ll end up there. Best way to get there from Kuta, is head for the Bypass to Sanur. At the junction of the Bypass and Benoa harbor, hang a left and its up that way.

Sanglah Hospital
Jl. Kesehaatan,
Denpasar,
Bali,
ph: 62 361 244 574, 62 361 244 575
fax: 62 361244 574

Foreign Consulates in Denpasar:
Denpasar is home to several foreign consulates, mostly in the Renon area of SE Denpasar. Foreign consulates in Denpasar include the Australian, Japanese, Mexican and US.

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